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Worth It or Not Worth It: Real Christmas Trees

December 12, 2015

For those who celebrate Christmas, 'tis the season to decide if you should get a tree (unless you, like my mom, already did this the Friday after Thanksgiving, in which case you get a gold star). A real Christmas ​tree is an icon, a seasonal air freshener, a place to hang blinking lights and ornaments (including DIY garlands), a spot to stash gifts, and a backdrop for super cute photographs of your pets—or just another thing for them to be very confused by.

Photo by James Ransom
Photo by Mark Weinberg

But sometimes, a real Christmas tree is not all it's cracked up to be: you have to remember to water it (otherwise it'll dry out and be a sad, very un-festive shell of its former self), it ultimately has to be disposed of (a​lso, when? when it gets ugly? the day after Christmas? January 1st? Three Kings Day? eight days after that? eight days after eight days after that?), and, most frustratingly, it leaves pine needles everywhere.

My first real tree in New York—wrapping was clearly not a priority (on the left), and my second, selected because I thought it was hilariously short and round (on the right).

Now that we've listed the pros and the cons, let's consider a few alternatives, and ultimately decide: Is getting a real Christmas tree worth it?

Artificial Tree

My (dangerously slanted) DIY christmas tree from two years ago (on the left). A few prettier artificial tree ideas from Food52 (on the right). Photo by Gabi Benedit
Photo by Bobbi Lin
Photo by Rocky Luten

An artificial tree is standard for lots of families. You can also DIY (like I did, above) by painting some branches, sticking them in a vase, hanging your precious ornaments off them and hoping it doesn't topple over. I'd light Thymes Frasier Fir candles periodically to give the olfactory illusion of the real deal.

Shop the Story

If you want to take the artificial​ route, you can go minimal with AREAWARE's Infinite Tree, hack tiny artificial trees, or even find a ​non-tree object to trim to get your home in the Christmas spirit.


This year, I got us a Frasier fir wreath. I figure it's the ultimate compromise: It doesn't take up the space of a tree and won't account for as many dropped needles, but it will still fill my house with the beautiful green of a true pine—the smell, oh, the smell!

You can make a wreath yourself with greenery or dried flowers, or pick one up—Creekside Farms has some beautiful, fragrant options that will keep your home merry and bright!

I'm so excited to visit my parents... and this beautiful, silvery tree with my mom's signature peace signs!

The Verdict

Although it may be a pain and litter your floor with tiny needles, there is nothing as wonderful as a true Christmas tree. So worth it!

Where do you stand on real Christmas trees? Do you think they're worth it? We want to know!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Skylar
  • aargersi
Gabi Benedit

Written by: Gabi Benedit

domestic dilettante.


Skylar December 14, 2015
I grew up with a real tree every year (and my parents still go real) but when I moved out, we started with artificial due to having a baby and cats getting used to the new place. I'd love to start going real again though! It's true, you can't beat it!
aargersi December 12, 2015
REAL! Needles and all! And Santa ornaments. Millions of them.